Before you board your next flight at Hopkins Airport, you may want to be careful what you put in your luggage. An elderly local couple found out the hard way.
By the time 78-year old Rudy Townes and his wife Gloria reached their final destination, the pair had been robbed of their life savings and a peaceful retirement.
Chief Investigator Carl Monday unraveled the "missing money mystery at Hopkins" that began back in June. The couple boarded a Delta plane headed for Atlanta. After changing planes they flew to Wilmington, North Carolina, in search of a retirement home.
The night before, Rudy had stuffed an envelope with cash---the down payment, into a blue bag that they checked at curbside at the airport. It wasn't until late that day, when they settled in at the Super 8 Motel in Wilmington, that they made a jaw-dropping discovery.
"How much money did you have in that bag," asked Monday. Rudy's reply, "$58,049!"
Yes, their life savings. Gone.
Rudy says he didn't carry the cash on the plane because he "didn't want them patting him down, thinking he was a drug dealer."
Hopkins Airport spokesperson Jackie Mayo called the decision "extremely stupid," adding "they were begging to have it stolen."
Question now is, who took the money, and where?
Carl Monday Investigations obtained a TSA video of the actual inspection of the blue bag at Hopkins. There's no indication any of the employees on the video took any money. A Wilmington Airport spokesperson said they reviewed their TSA video and didn't see anything either. The official says they were told by Cleveland Police, the theft occurred somewhere between Cleveland and Atlanta.
A person contacted at the Atlanta Airport says they weren't even aware of the theft. Atlanta police have not returned phone calls.
In an email, Delta will only say that "it's co-operating with local law enforcement in their investigation."
Rudy & Gloria have produced bank records they say prove the money existed. Money they say they spent years saving.
"We felt we had enough to make a new life, to get a new home," says Rudy. "Now that dream is destroyed by someone else's greediness."
Cleveland Police say their investigation continues.
Meantime, the day after Carl Monday's story aired, Hopkins Airport System Director Ricky Smith sent 19 Action news the following statement:
Earlier today it was reported on a local television network that the Communications Manager for the Cleveland Airport System suggested that a passenger's decision to place money in luggage checked-in at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was 'stupid.' In response, I want to make it unquestionably clear that such a reference to an airport passenger, or anyone for that matter, from an official of the Cleveland Airport System is unacceptable and not a reflection of how we view or value Airport customers. The employees of the Airport System work very hard every day to treat our customers with respect and dignity. Therefore, I offer my sincerest apology to Mr. and Mrs. Townes and wish to assure them that we will continue to cooperate with authorities in their efforts to recover the money.